PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/9/2017 – It would be a challenge for the University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team as they faced the highest ranked opponent in program history. The #2/3 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame returned to the Palestra. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw is commemorated in the Palestra and the West Chester born is a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame.
While Penn battled one of the top teams in the country, the inability to make shots was a factor they could not overcome falling 66 – 54. The Fighting Irish held the Quakers to 30.4% shooting ( 21 of 69). It was especially costly in the third quarter when they converted 3 of 19 from the floor. Penn was led in scoring by forward Lauren Whitlatch with 18 points. She tied a career-high 6 made three-pointers set earlier this season against Missouri State. Leading scorer Michelle Nwokedi was held to 4 points, a season low.
“Defensively, I thought we did a really good job on Michelle (Nwokedi),” said McGraw said. “That was a key for the game, with (Jessica) Sheperd getting 6 blocked shots.”
Whitlatch got going in the latter two periods, but total game is what matters to her.
“It doesn’t matter if the ball goes in or it doesn’t go in, they way we play on the defensive end is the Penn way,” said Whitlatch. “Shoot good shots is what the coaches tell us, trust yourself, trust your teammates, continue to play within yourself.”
“Trust yourself, and if the ball doesn’t go in, how are you going to make up for that? A defensive stop or a rebound.”
The defense allowed the Quakers to stay in touch with the Irish. The deficit after three quarters was eight points. Penn forced 22 ND turnovers, and it was the lowest offensive output by the South Bend squad this season.
Notre Dame was able to get good shots by fast break layups or inside layups off good ball movement. The Irish outscored the Quakers 40 – 18 points in the paint, usually a strength for hosts.
“They got into the interior of our zone, they attacked a way we don’t see too much,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “They spread it wide. We tried to adjust a little bit, but it was their skill and interior passing. They play good offense.”
Guard Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with a game-high 20 points shooting 8 of 17. Marina Mabrey scored 18 points and took down 8 rebounds. The junior guard from Bellmawr, NJ made 5 of 8 attempts from the floor and was 2 for 4 from beyond the arc.
The Red and Blue (2 – 4) have a quick turn around as they prepare for a Big Five contest against Saint Joseph’s on Hawk Hill.
“I am proud of this group, a little disappointed in the final result, but we got a little bit better today,” said McLaughlin.
Prior to the game Penn honored Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw on her induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame. McGraw played at Saint Joseph’s graduating in 1977 and was placed in the Big Five Hall of Fame in 1990. She was honored by the tribute.
Written By: Glenn Papazian